Ohio Statehouse demonstration aims to raise profile of service dogs

Protestors marched around the Ohio Statehouse Saturday, stopping a few times to chant together and share stories.  Most protestors had service animals or signs with them.

This week marks the sixth year of Service Dog Awareness Week and with it, advocates hope to raise more awareness for service dogs and the rights of people with disabilities.

Service dogs and advocates alike marched in support of visibility on Saturday. The protestors marched around the Statehouse with signs, a bullhorn and the occasional bathroom break for the dogs.

Christopher Cooley organized the event, which saw a few dozen people come out in support. He led the march with his service dog, Larkin, by his side.

“What I’m hoping is people see us out here and know that service dogs are our equipment and that not all disabilities are visible,” Cooley said.

State lawmakers passed a bill of Service Dog Awareness Week in 2016, one the first of its kind in the United States.

Cooley said he hopes other states will adopt their own versions.

Raven Bruner and service dog, Phoebe, took part in the march on Saturday.  Bruner is an advocate who often helps people with disability connect with disability advocates on Facebook.

Rules for service dogs

Currently, Ohio law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows service animals in all public spaces, including stores, restaurants and hotels.

Nationally, there are about 500,000 service animals in use, including those aiding the blind, deaf or otherwise in need of physical aid, and those for emotional, psychological or other support.

The laws have been in Ohio for over 30 years but, in Cooley’s experience, many shop owners still don’t recognize that service animals must be permitted.

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